As part of a security improvements plan set for all Washoe County School District high schools in the next two to three years, fences went up around the perimeter of both homes of the Raiders and Railroaders. While there was reluctance at first from students and parents regarding the recent additions to the schools, feedback is now positive.
“It’s not meant to be a prison,” Reed Principal Mary Vesco said. “This whole fencing thing started from a grant for the school police to fence in all the schools in Washoe County as a safety measure. It is not to keep people in, but to keep possible intruders out. We’ve been fortunate that we have not had a lot of those incidents, but if they are to occur, this allows us to lock the school down and not have the intruder come in.
“The reason we were one of the first schools to be fenced in is primarily because of Baring Boulevard. There was concern about someone getting hurt because kids weren’t crossing the street in the crosswalks and were just kind of going. We’ve had students hit before. A 200-pound boy or girl against a 2,000 pound car is not a competition. The fence has certainly helped tremendously in that area and people have realized the fence isn’t intrusive. Students don’t think it’s that bad anymore.”
While the main safety issue at Reed is controlling the traffic flow of students crossing Baring Boulevard, the concerns at Sparks High deal more with the security of the students.
“It’s about safe schools and creating a safe environment, period,” said Wanda Shakeenab, Sparks High Principal. “We want everyone inside to feel safe. I’ll never forget my first week and a half here, an individual from outside walked right on campus and started an incident with one of the students. Then I was like ‘We have to close. This is dangerous.’ We have strangers walking about and it’s hard to protect your kids. So for us, it’s about safety first and foremost.”
Although the fence has made incidents, such as the one that Shakeenab described, largely a problem of the past, the benefits have overflowed beyond the safety concerns as the impact of enclosing the campuses has been immediate and positive for both high schools.
“It’s a complete 180,” Shakeenab said. “All our numbers as far as discipline is concerned are just null and void. We don’t have a high number of skippers. We’re not having any incidents with any students from other schools coming over and causing any type of disruption. Last year was heavy with graffiti and this year we don’t have that. That’s all gone. All the issues that were there are no longer there. We should have done this a long time ago. It’s been very positive.
“After one month, the students already know what is expected of them. The maturation level is higher. They’re more responsible. It’s like ‘I have to be back on campus at this time or I’ll lose this privilege,’ or ‘I have to have my ID to do this.’ It’s teaching them about character and responsibility and they’re responding well. I’m enjoying it.”
Although the record of occurrences has dropped, Reed High Athletic Director Ron Coombs said the impact is much larger than what numbers can show.
“I don’t think it’s something that you can measure with incidents or anything like that. I think it’s been the attitude of our students,” Coombs said. “I don’t think there’s any way to even quantify it. The general overall attitude of the kids has improved. We’re still going to have discipline issues, like any school, but we’re seeing less of that. I don’t know if that’s the fence, I don’t know if that’s the new uniforms, but I do know that the attitudes have changed immensely.”
Administrators are not the only ones who have recognized the improvement of student conduct. Outside of the school, those from the neighborhoods nearby are appreciating the changes as well.
“I’ve spoken with the community and they’re enjoying it,” Shakeenab said. “They don’t have to worry about their property being littered or kids loitering around. The neighborhood loves it. I don’t get phone calls anymore. It’s peaceful. To have that support is great.”
Next in line for fencing will be Spanish Springs High School. The school has received notice from the WCSD that it is going to be done at some point, but the date for when the fence will begin to go up has not yet been set. While the timeline is still up in the air, Spanish Springs Assistant Principal Jay Salter said the new border around the school will have little impact upon the day-to-day happenings.
“To be honest, it’s not going to make a huge impact on us because we’re already a closed campus,” Salter said. “I think for us, because our particular site is so far out here, it’s keeping people from coming in. It’s more to keep external people off of our campus than to keep our kids in. Our kids are very well behaved and they are used to the closed campus, so it’s not going to be a big deal for them. Still, it’s about the safety of the kids and you can’t put a price on that.”